The variety of subjects in this chapter shows the versatility of life. We see here that all aspects of human life are under the authority of God’s law.
The variety of subjects in this chapter shows the versatility of life. We see here that all aspects of human life are under the authority of God’s law.
1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
Leviticus 18 is mainly negative; this chapter also contains positive elements. Separation is not only to distance oneself from certain forms of evil, as Leviticus 18 emphasizes, but also means sanctification to a certain goal or a person. This is about sanctification to God, about positive dedication to Him.
What comes to the fore in this chapter concerns the whole people of God and not only Aaron and his sons. It is not so much the priestly service, but the daily life of the members of God’s people. All members of God’s people are needed for the implementation of these precepts. Nowhere else in Leviticus is the whole people approached in the way that is done here. God wants to see His holiness reflected in all members of His people. It is as with the new man created according to God (Eph 4:2424and put on the new self [lit man], which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.). To show this new man all believers are needed.
In Leviticus 18 the emphasis is on the LORD, which means on Him as the One Who stands in a covenant relationship with His people. In this chapter the emphasis is on the holiness of the LORD. We must realize that the holy God of the Old Testament is also the holy God of the New Testament (1Pet 1:15-1615but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior;16because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”). That we are no longer under the law, but under grace, does not change anything about God’s holiness. Behind all the commandments of God stands His holiness.
3Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. 4Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.
Both commandments mentioned in verse 33Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. summarize the whole law. It is about the recognition of the authority granted by God and the authority of God Himself.
Reverence for God, Whom we do not see, is shown in the first place by reverence for father and mother whom we can see (cf. Mal 1:6a6“ ‘A son honors [his] father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’). Father and mother are God’s first authority on earth that a human being has to deal with as soon as he is born. The honoring of father and mother applies as long as they live and not only when we live with them in the house. The mother is first mentioned. Even when the father has died, the commandment remains to honor her.
This commandment to reverence the first authority with which a person on earth is confronted is linked to the sabbatical commandment. By observing God’s sabbaths, the Israelite shows his recognition of God. A certain usefulness can be assumed in all commands. This is not directly seen in the sabbath commandment. A person can rather see it as a day with a loss of productivity. He who keeps this commandment does it, because God has said it.
In the spiritual application, the sabbath commandment lays the foundation for all relationships. If we rest in the rest of God, that is in the work of Christ, there will also be rest in the family relationships in the acknowledgement of the obligations God has given in them.
Father and mother (family) and sabbath (rest after work) were instituted by God before the fall into sin. These institutions are the pillars of a peaceful world order and civil prosperity. All who belong to God’s people may restore these pillars in a spiritual sense.
The commandment of honoring the father and mother also applies to the church (Eph 6:22Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),). The sabbath commandment cannot be kept literally, because God’s rest with regard to creation is disturbed by sin (Jn 5:16-1716For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.17But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”). For creation this rest is still future (Heb 4:99So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.). In a spiritual sense God rests in the work of His Son and we too may rest in it.
The child who is taught to reverence father and mother will also reverence God and keep away from idols. Also the connection with one’s neighbor can only be good if the upwards connection, with God, is good. If God no longer stands before our attention, because other things have become more important – idols in any form –, the relationship with our immediate neighbors, our family members, will chill.
5‘Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6It shall be eaten the same day you offer [it], and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. 7So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. 8Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people.
All forms of fellowship with our brothers and sisters, only have meaning through the peace offering. That seems to be the reason for reiterating the conditions relating to the peace offering. The peace offering, the fellowship offering, must be renewed each time (cf. Lev 7:15-1815‘Now [as for] the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.16But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;17but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire.18So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should [ever] be eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, [and] it will not be reckoned to his [benefit]. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his [own] iniquity.).
We must always remember that our fellowship with each other and with God is based on the work of the Lord Jesus. If our fellowship, which we first experienced as a result of the work of the Lord Jesus, has descended to the level of the world, then that fellowship is an abomination for God. For Him there is only one fellowship: the fellowship characterized by His Son Jesus Christ (1Cor 1:99God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.).
9‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.
The care and protection of one’s neighbor follow the tribute to God in the peace offering. To sacrifices of praise and thanks are inextricably linked the sacrifices of mercy (Heb 13:15-1615Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.16And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.). The harvest time is a time of joy, in which we also want others to share. What others get from us is not loss or waste, but will bring us blessing (Rth 2:1919Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.”).
It is our task to ensure that our poor neighbor gets food anyway. It is not God’s will that there should be poor Israelites. If they are, it can be their own fault. But God does not want the wealthier to withdraw from the poor. That is also the case spiritually. If believers have been lazy in getting to know their richness, then the Lord wants us to share something with them so that they can enjoy the richness we have come to know.
11‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
God’s people need these exhortations. They are also in the letter to the Ephesians, to whom the highest blessings have been revealed. In that letter not only something is forbidden, but also the positive side is pointed out. Then, instead of lying, we speak the truth: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:2525Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.). And instead of stealing, there is giving away: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have [something] to share with one who has need” (Eph 4:2828He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have [something] to share with one who has need.; Col 3:99Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices,).
12You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. 13‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob [him]. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.
It is a great sin if we withhold from others what we owe them. This applies both literally (Jam 5:44Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, [and] which has been withheld by you, cries out [against you]; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.) and spiritually (Mt 18:32b-3332Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’). What we do to our neighbor, we do to ourselves. In the body of Christ we are united as members. What one member does, affects the other. If one member suffers, all members suffer. The fact that this is not always experienced in this way does not take away anything from the truth.
14You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.
Someone can be deaf because of a physical defect; he can be deaf because he is outside the hearing of the curser; he can also deafen for a curser (Psa 38:14a14Yes, I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth are no arguments.
). A deaf person does not hear the curse, but God hears it and blames heavily the man who curses. Insulting people who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves is perceived by God.
Placing a stumbling block before the blind is also shabby. If we are spiritually allowed to see a certain truth, we can put a stumbling block in the way of others who may be blind to that certain truth (cf. 1Cor 8:8-98But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.; Rom 14:1313Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.).
We are capable of such despicable things. Even David shows a deep aversion to the lame and the blind (2Sam 5:88David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, through the water tunnel.” Therefore they say, “The blind or the lame shall not come into the house.”). But God is not like that. And we should show Him. After all, we were created according to Him.
15‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.
An honest judgment, without regard to the person, is acting according to the example of God. Josaphat acts according to this rule when he appoints judges. He says: “Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe” (2Chr 19:77Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”). James warns of making this distinction and speaks of “evil motives” (Jam 2:1-41My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with [an attitude of] personal favoritism.2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?).
We will not destroy our neighbor’s life, which happens when we make life impossible for him by slandering him. He who goes around like a slanderer rains death and destruction among God’s people. In Ezekiel 22, slander and murder are also connected (Eze 22:9a9Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain [shrines]. In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness.). Whoever seeks the good for his brother or sister is doing his utmost to let the other enjoy life in its richest form in the midst of the company of God’s children. The Lord Jesus is life.
17‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.
To reprove someone is also a form of love and care for one’s neighbor (Psa 141:55Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it,
For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
; Pro 27:5-65Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.
6Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.). To endure sin in him and not to say anything about it means to hate him. If the neighbor continues to live in his sin, he lacks fellowship with God and his fellow believers. Reproving must be done in love. Love covers sin for others, but not for the sinner himself. The attitude of “am I my brother’s keeper? (Gen 4:99Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”) is the attitude of Cain and stands against what God says here.
18You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Like verse 1717‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him., this verse shows that it is not only about outward actions, but about the inner motives that lead to the outward actions as well. It’s about the mind from which we act.
A higher standard applies to us: to love one another as God and Christ have loved us. In the law I am the norm, in Christendom Christ is the norm. If I am the norm, I will not disadvantage another person. If Christ is the norm, I will give myself for the other (1Jn 3:1616We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.). This is possible through the new life I have, for that life is Christ Himself and that acts in me no differently than in Him.
19‘You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.
A second series of commandments begins with the instruction “You are to keep My statutes”. Here God forbids three forms of mixing: of animals, of seeds and of garment materials. Probably when mixing animals, we should not think of ‘mating’ in the first place, but of going under an unequal yoke together (Deu 22:9-119“You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled.10“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.11“You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.). Just as we should not separate what God has merged in His order of creation, we should not merge what God has separated in His order of creation. He has created everything according to its kind (Gen 1:2525God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.). In both cases, what God has given is corrupted.
The spiritual lesson is that it is forbidden to mix things that don’t belong together. We see that in Christianity where law and grace or the flesh and the Spirit are mixed together. This evil is denounced in the letter to the Galatians. We also see it in the mixture of faith in the Lord Jesus with pagan philosophies, which is the subject of the letter to the Colossians. In 2 Corinthians 6 there are other forms of mixing that are forbidden (2Cor 6:14-1814Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.17“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.18“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.).
20‘Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for [another] man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, [however], be put to death, because she was not free. 21He shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.
Slaves must also be recognized as human beings having their rights. A female slave may not be reduced to a business property. In a spiritual sense we see here another example of a wrong mixture: a man who has fellowship with a slave. That too is to apply to making oneself one with legal principles, to allow them in life. Anyone who does something like that is to blame.
23‘When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; [it] shall not be eaten. 24But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the LORD your God.
When the people have come into the land, the fruit of trees they plant in the land is first unclean. That fruit is still, as it were, fed by soil cultivated by the Canaanites. For three years, eating it was forbidden to God’s people, because it was still too closely linked to the stain that adjoined the country.
The fruit in the fourth year may be eaten, but must be offered to God. He also asserts his right to the first fruits with regard to the fruits of the trees, as also with animals and children. The recognition of this birthright will lead to a greater yield for the people.
Application: everything that comes out of the world is impure. What does not come from God Himself is unclean. Therefore, we must bring the earthly things into connection with God’s Word and prayer. In this way we sanctify the things of the world we use (1Tim 4:4-54For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.). Then also it gets a richer meaning, a greater yield, it is more to the glory of God.
26‘You shall not eat [anything] with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.
Given the connection between the commandment not to eat anything that still contains blood here, eating anything with blood seems to be a pagan custom. The other prohibitions are also connected to the distinction that God wants to see maintained between pagan customs and what is appropriate for a people with whom He is connected as the God of the covenant.
Nor does He allow us any trip into the realm of darkness, for example reading a horoscope. Christians who think that reading a horoscope, even if it is ‘for fun’, does nothing to them, are wrong. Every entry into the realm of darkness is spiritual fornication and unacceptable to a jealous God.
This prohibition is also proof of His love for His people who will destroy themselves with these things. The country will become full of shame and will become a disgust towards the surrounding peoples. Saul did not comply with the prohibition of verse 3131‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. and died (1Chr 10:1313So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry [of it],).
32‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. 33‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. 35‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 37You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the LORD.’”
Honoring an elder means honoring God. Old people living with God can count on God’s recognition (Pro 16:3131A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
; 20:2929The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair.). It is a testimony of wisdom if we follow Him therein. We can learn from their experiences (Job 32:6-76So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite spoke out and said,
“I am young in years and you are old;
Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.
7“I thought age should speak,
And increased years should teach wisdom.
). Today, old people are no longer considered significant. Euthanasia is a socially accepted means of solving the problem of the elderly. A country that deals with its old people in this way will degenerate into disorder (Isa 3:55And the people will be oppressed,
Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;
The youth will storm against the elder
And the inferior against the honorable.
God’s people must not only love their neighbor, who is their fellow countryman. Their love must also go out to the stranger who is in their land. God’s people represent a God Who is also love. They experienced this for themselves when they were strangers in Egypt and He took care of them and took them out of slavery. For us, loving and giving love is also easier if we think about how much love has been proven to us. “We love, because He first loved us” (1Jn 4:1919We love, because He first loved us.).
To judge and measure with an honest measure shows respect for the LORD, for His salvation and for the neighbor who also is connected to Him on the basis of the same work of salvation. To do wrong under the appearance of justice is deceit and hypocrisy. Using a large size when buying goods and using a small size when selling goods does bring a lot of profit, but it is unlawful and is at the expense of the property of the neighbor. This evil is often denounced (Pro 20:1010Differing weights and differing measures,
Both of them are abominable to the LORD.; Amos 8:5b5saying,
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat [market],
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
; Pro 20:2323Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD,
And a false scale is not good.; Mic 6:1010“Is there yet a man in the wicked house,
[Along with] treasures of wickedness
And a short measure [that is] cursed?